Reasons to Stay Alive: Getting in Contact with Your True Self
Reasons to stay alive are not just a matter of concern to people in extreme situations: if we are honest, we need them every moment of our lives.
This theme is related to the topic of my last blog post “How To Be True to Yourself in the Midst of Big Life Changes“. However, in this post, I want to take it a little further, and point out, in true Jungian fashion, how the genuine experience of reasons to live is deeply connected with the experience of our own genuine individuality and uniqueness. Recently, I watched a documentary that brought this home in a powerful way.
15 Reasons to Live
The documentary “Fifteen Reasons to Live” was originally included in the 2013 Hot Docs Film Festival. The director, Alan Zweig, who also narrates the film has chosen 15 initially abstract-seeming abstract “reasons to live” that form the structure of the film:
What is fundamentally important about this film, though, is not the abstract word or concept, but the way in which the film uses each “reason” to introduce a very individual story. We learn of 15 people, who in one sense, are very “ordinary”. Yet they’ve brought unique, even surprising sources of value into their lives, giving them a sense that their lives are worth living.
Individual Paths to Validation and Meaning
- the busy mother of several kids who finds sanity and meaning in spending time each day just being silent and watching people at a mall near to her home;
- the Montreal man whose response to a difficult mid-life transition was to walk around the world;
- the woman who finds meaning and secure attachment by making her home in an east coast lighthouse;
- the man who as a recovering alcoholic found community, connection and a place for self-expression through his blog about “a thousand songs”; and,
- the man who has found essential relief for anxiety and depression, and a sense of meaningful contribution through immigrating to Canada, and transitioning to a career as a registered massage therapist.
There are many more highly individual stories of individuals finding value and meaning in unexpected, very unique places. These people make it very clear that their paths bring genuine validation and meaning into their lives.
Finding Your Daimon
As psychologist and Jungian James Hillman would emphasize, these people seem to have found very unique things that carry value for them as individuals, providing singular opportunities to those individuals for self-expression and living authentically. Hillman refers to the “unique daimon” of the individual, the inner soul-companion that enables us to live out what he calls “the necessity of the soul”. He sees each of us as having a unique calling, and, as he tells us,
A calling may be postponed, avoided, intermittently missed. It may also possess you completely. Whatever; eventually it will out. It makes its claim.
These individuals seem to have been “possessed completely” by the passion, meaning and value that they have found. They find validity and vitality in their lives as a result. Beyond just rather sterile-sounding “reasons to stay alive”, they’re immersed in things that fundamentally alter their perspective on their lives — and provide a profound validation.
A key goal of /a-midlife-transition is to bring each individual into connection with the things that bring such a profound sense of worthwhileness to an individual’s life. The great psychologist Rollo May emphasized that
Therapy isn’t [fundamentally] curing somebody of something; it is a means of helping a person explore himself, his life, his consciousness.
Depth case studies is in fundamental agreement with this, and would add: —and helping a person to find the unique creative value and meaning that not only gives reasons to stay alive, but a bedrock affirmation of who and what we most fundamentally are.
Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst
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© 2018 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)